“Smack upside the head.”
This was the point at which The Amazing Spider-Man 2 lost me. It happened fairly early on – and I wasn’t holding on particularly tight even then – but it lost me. It’s Spider-Man who delivers the line, and he isn’t being sarcastic, it isn’t a joke. No, he says it, straight faced, to a random goon in a cut-scene. We’re through the looking glass people.
With writing like that you won’t be surprised to hear that the plot is a shambles. It begins with a Russian gang – comprised of one dude copy and pasted X amount of times – starting a gang war in New York. A private military corporation is brought in, leading to tanks on the streets and drones in the sky. It’s exactly the plot of Saints Row the Third, except where that was satire, this is meant to be serious. Even then, the city officials in Saints Row realise it’s a terrible idea in the end, while here a post credit sequence shows a telephone conversation with the mayor on how good an idea it is to keep this “task force” around. If a deliberate piss-take can’t keep a straight face with this plot, how the hell can The Amazing Spider-Man 2?
Of course, there’s more to it than that. Villains from the Spider-Man mythos are drafted in; every character that gets any detail at all you will eventually have to fight. Black Cat, Green Goblin (the one from the movie), they’re all here, with terribly written lines and hammy acting.
Oh God (whom art a geek), the cut-scenes. I don’t even know where to begin. Spider-Man fidgets and lunges like a junkie in need of a fix, with dialogue that barely makes sense at times. Same goes for the handful of random lines he’ll say during gameplay. I get that Spider-Man is meant to be an arrogant, cocky teenager – that’s his personality – but he even manages to be a patronising dick to the player – try and web swing without any buildings nearby and he’ll smirk: “Oops! I need something to swing off!” Silly player!
Ah, the swinging, the best part of being Spider-Man. Get that right and nothing else really matters. Well, they got it wrong. The triggers control the left and right arms respectively, which, while giving a bit more agency to you, makes getting into the rhythm of swinging a little difficult, particularly turning. One button was enough for Spider-Man 2, and that was a decade ago.
That’s when The Amazing Spider-Man 2 lets you swing of course. There’s a mandatory reputation system in the game, to get you to do the random tasks scattered around the city; rescue people form a fire, catch a stolen car, etc… But neglect these things and your level drops, with the police and task force harassing you when all you want to do is explore a bit. It doesn’t help that the tasks are mind-numbingly dull, but after each main mission the game seems to set your reputation at a predetermined level – aka low – so you exit a mission and immediately have to do some tasks or you can’t just do what you want. The missions are no better: linear slogs through confined areas, beating up everyone you can see.
And all of this is a shame because there is potential here. The devs have clearly been inspired by Rocksteady’s Batman games, and that is only a positive thing. Spider-Man has an attack, a counterattack and a web-shoot button, although most fights, including boss-battles, devolve into hammering square until everybody’s dead. But the way Spiderman flits between targets – basically at random due to atrocious aiming – is almost seamless, bouncing off one, sliding behind another. It’s almost good. It could have been.
Also borrowed from the Dark Knight are cavernous rooms full of baddies to pick off. In theory, Spider-Man 2 is almost more suited to this that the Bat: he can stick to walls rather than relying on gargoyles being the must have decor feature of the season. Sadly, these bits are let down by poor controls on anything other than the ground, a lack of aiming and a stealth button that only works within a few feet of the enemy, even if you’re perched directly above him.
Despite this glimmer though, there’s worse to come. Bugs are everywhere, Spider-Man clipping through himself, enemies that can see through walls, and enemies that – if you perform a finishing move on them – can go through walls. Texture pop in levels are dreadful, too, and at times you could mistake it for a PS2 game, and overall there’s a lack of polish. For a game setting you back £50 on a next-gen console, you’d expect more.
VERDICT: There is potential here. I don’t know if it was time, money or the will, but it could have been special. The combat isn’t far off decent, it’s just a shame that it’s tied to the rest of the package.
Let me put it to you this way. I actually stopped playing The Amazing Spider-Man 2 to do some other work. I’d play a mission, decide I couldn’t take any more and go do something else instead, just to get away from it. Quite frankly, that’s the opposite of what a game should be.
BAD. Ugly, lazy, and unpleasant, if we’ve scored a game so low then it has serious issues. A 3/10 game will suffer from a combination of uninspired, lacklustre design, unfixed bugs and poor presentation.
Review code provided by publisher.